Cumberland County Passes New Budget

By: Rob Pratt
By: Rob Pratt

Cumberland County (WVLT) -- With threats of school closures hanging over them, the Cumberland County Commission held a special session on Thursday to deal with the county budget.

That budget passed, but not everyone is happy.

The reason?

On first glance it looks like the schools got most everything they were asking for, but the director of schools says the budget is an illusion that leaves her facing some difficult realities.

"We rank 122nd out of 137 school systems and I know you don't want to hear it again," said Aarona Van Winkle, Cumberland County Director of Schools.

She wasn't alone, and on Thursday morning, parents, students and concerned citizens pack the room, wanting to be heard.

The lack of an invitation to speak at the podium didn't matter.

"I think the commissioner should tell what money there is in the budget that ought to be cut," yelled one concerned citizen.

Van Winkle was just as passionate.

"In the end, the county approved a budget allowing the schools to spend $46 million and agreeing to pay for $1.2 million in capital improvements," she said.

But efforts to move actual dollars from other county funds failed.

"A lot of folks might think that they just funded a $47 million budget, but they did not," Van Winkle said. "They told us we could
Spend $47 million if we could come up with the money somewhere."

Many here see the budget's passage as an empty gesture.

"I don't think it's right, but hopefully we'll get what we need to keep the schools running," said Tammy Smith, parent of a Cumberland County student.

"This is a problem that we had last year," said Dean Bosteels, a concerned citizen,” it’s going to only repeat itself next year. They're just perpetuating robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Several commissioners, including Jeff Brown, admitted that they were confused by ever changing numbers.

According to Brown, that confusion created animosity.

"We're not going to vote for something that's an unknown number," he said. "We're just trying to get a true number because it's changed in the last 24 hours."

Much of the budget problem was created by the state's new funding formula which cost Cumberland County $4 million this year.

No county in the state was hit harder by the changes.

Commissioners said they may try to put a wheel tax referendum on the ballot for voters to consider next year.

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